The SEC is traditionally one of the deepest conferences in college football, with prestigious programs full of household names capable of producing astounding fantasy numbers. Some big names have left the conference this offseason, but the same should generally be true in 2010.
Defending national champion Alabama has a ton of offensive talent returning, headlined by running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Wide receiver Julio Jones struggled with injuries and inconsistency last year, but he has the talent to do even better than he did in his brilliant 2008 freshman season. The loss of star defensive end Marcell Dareus will hurt a great deal, but itís still hard to deny Alabama the status as National Championship favorites.
John Brantley could make Gator fans and fantasy players alike forget about the great Tim Tebow. He is a tall, pro-style quarterback who could engineer the most effective passing attack in Urban Meyerís tenure at Florida. As usual, there is speed and talent on both sides of the ball.
Arkansas gunslinger Ryan Mallett powers a prolific offense with depth at running back and wide receiver. Seven starters return on a defense that struggled last season but should be improved. Mallet has a chance to be a top-five pick in the NFL Draft with a strong season, so he has every reason to be at his best yet.
LSU underachieved dramatically on offense last year, but a strong defense led by shutdown corner Patrick Peterson should make the team a formidable contestant for a top-25 bid.
Aside from Ingram and Mallett, Kentuckyís all-purpose sensation Randall Cobb has arguably the most fantasy potential of any SEC player. The Wildcats must replace three starters on the offensive line and get consistent quarterback play for Cobb to reach his potential, but heís shown the ability to dominate as a runner, receiver and returner, so thereís reason to believe heíll always get the job done. Kentucky could finish the 2010 campaign strong with four winnable games down the stretch.
Auburn will be in the mix if Florida transfer and former five-star recruit Cameron Newton can produce. The Tigers have plenty of talent at the skill positions and could surprise in 2010 if they get consistent play in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The running back position in particularly is loaded for Auburn, as Mario Fannin, Onterrio McCalebb and Michael Dyer could be the nationís best trio.
South Carolina and Georgia are once again shrouded in uncertainty entering the season.
Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia could finally have a running game if incoming freshman Marcus Lattimore lives up to the hype. The Ole Ball Coach faces a difficult schedule that would make a nine-win season a huge success.
Georgia coach Mark Richt is on the hot seat after several disappointing seasons. The Bulldogs have A.J. Green and Washaun Ealey as top talents on offense, and its hopeful that former five-star recruit Aaron Murray can produce as the teamís new quarterback.
Mississippi was one of the most disappointing teams in 2010 and is in rebuilding mode with just three returning offensive starters. The same can be said for first-year coach Derek Dooley at Tennessee and a Vanderbilt squad in desperate need of help on offense.
Players to Target
Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
The 6-7, 238, Mallett looks more like a linebacker than a quarterback. The Michigan transfer was an instant success in Arkansas last season, tossing 30 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. Mallett actually had three games with five touchdowns each. His completion percentage could improve but is overshadowed by his ability to throw the deep ball. Arkansas is loaded at receiver and should be more consistent in 2010.
John Brantley, QB, Florida
Brantley faces the difficult task of replacing Tim Tebow as the new quarterback of the Gators. A more conventional quarterback than Tebow, Brantley completed 75 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and no interceptions last season. Urban Meyer and the Florida wide receivers have confidence in Brantley, setting him up for a very successful season.
Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
After a Heisman Trophy and national championship, what can Ingram do for an encore? The 5-10, 212, bulldozer tallied 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground in 2009, adding another 334 yards and three scores through the air. The skill players on offense are back for Nick Saban's crew, so there's no reason to doubt that Ingram can replicate the success of his Heisman Trophy campaign. Ingramís production will be hurt somewhat since he is expected to share more carries this season with Trent Richardson, who had 751 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
Brandon Bolden, RB, Mississippi
With the exit of Dexter McCluster, Bolden becomes the favorite to lead the Mississippi rushing attack. Heís a skilled pass-catcher as well as a solid all-around runner, and heíll be the workhorse of the Mississippi offense in 2010. He totaled 823 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns as a backup last year, so thereís reason to believe heís capable of big things.
Derrick Locke, RB, Kentucky
Locke lost some carries to Randall Cobb last season, but still managed 907 yards rushing and six touchdowns for UK, including three 100-yard games in SEC play. He showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, snagging 31 passes out 284 yards and two more scores. With Kentucky still looking for a solid player under center, Locke figures to shoulder much of the offensive burden for the 'Cats in 2010.
Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
Richardson is the second runner for Alabama, but heíll put up bigger numbers than he did last year. He might be even more talented that Mark Ingram is, and he'll definitely improve on his 2009 rushing totals of 749 yards and eight touchdowns.
Randall Cobb, WR, Kentucky
Injuries hampered what started out as an encouraging campaign for Cobb in 2009. After catching four touchdowns in the first give games, he struggled after the loss of his quarterback Mike Hartline to a knee injury. A thumb injury that lingered most of the season also hurt his productivity as a receiver. He was able to add to his value by rushing for 573 yards and 10 touchdowns, and showed that even injuries and poor quarterback play canít slow him down. Cobb should produce plenty of all-purpose yards and touchdowns in 2010.
Deonte Thompson, WR, Florida
Thompson has struggled to this point in his career, but heíll breakout in 2010. The new Florida offense will throw the ball much more, and no one is better suited to replace Riley Cooper as the teamís go-to wideout than Thompson. Donít be surprised if Thompson tops 1,000 yards this year.
A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Green saw his stats fall in 2009 after a strong freshman campaign. He battled injuries and bad quarterback play but demonstrated effort throughout the season. At 6-4, he has the size and athleticism to dominate defensive backs, especially at the goal line. Expect Green to produce around 1,000 yards this seasonóand then bolt to the NFL.
Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas
Drops, drops and more drops are the only thing preventing Childs from climbing the ranks of the best receivers in college football. He still managed 48 receptions for nearly 900 yards and seven touchdowns last year and should improve those numbers in 2010. Has good size (6-3, 217) and speed Ė he simply needs to catch the ball.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina
Jeffery is a gifted athlete with tremendous upside. He hauled in 46 passes for more than 700 yards and six touchdowns last season and could be in line for a bigger year this season if the Gamecocks get consistent quarterback play from Stephen Garcia. A running game of some sort would also boost Jefferyís production.
Greg McElroy, QB, Alabama
How can the starting quarterback on the defending national championship team be a sleeper? Itís certainly possible, given McElroyís up-and-down 2009 and the presence of a multitude of talented running backs. The senior showed flashes last season and should benefit from a more focused Julio Jones
Warren Norman, RB, Vanderbilt
Norman ran his way into the SEC record books by breaking Herschel Walkerís freshman all-purpose yardage record. As a unit, the Vandy offense canít get much worse than it was a year ago. Norman should have a very productive 2010 campaign, making him a player to monitor on the fantasy front.
Jeremiah Masoli, QB, Mississippi
Many assume Masoli will be handed the starting job at Mississippi, but we donít see it. His style of play isnít compatible with the offense Mississippi has been practicing all year, and itís hard to see him beating out Nathan Stanley for the job. Mississippi didnít allow Masoli to join the team until backup Raymond Cotton left the team, so we think he was brought in strictly as a backup/wildcat specialist.
Darvin Adams, WR, Auburn
Adams was brilliant in 2009, catching 60 passes for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns. The issue heading into 2010 is the arrival of quarterback Cameron Newton, who is more of a running quarterback and will necessitate a more run-oriented offense. Adams will remain unchallenged as Auburnís top receiver, but Mario Fannin, Onterrio McCalebb and Michael Dyer will form the main engine of the offense.
Cameron Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton is a former five-star recruit who comes to Auburn with sky-high expectations. The Florida transfer is a brilliant athlete who will make an instant impact as a runner, but has the talent to turn into a legitimate dual-threat.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
Steve Spurrier finally has a gem at running back. The highly touted Lattimore will play immediately and could become a valuable fantasy asset. His size and speed make him easily one of the best prospects in college football. Just beware of the fact that Steve Spurrier has almost no history of creating fantasy-relevant running backs.